February 2024 Book Review | 'The Bee Sting'
For Parkites ready to settle in by the fire for a satisfying mid-winter’s tale, acclaimed Irish author Paul Murray is the storyteller they need. His new novel “The Bee Sting” is an epic that is as heart-breaking as it is heart-warming.
Readers of fiction know that a well-spun story is often closer to the truth than a straightforward recounting of fact. Moreover, a tale well told is often the mirror we need to help us understand ourselves and the world around us. “The Bee Sting” by award-winning Irish author Paul Murray offers a long hard look in the mirror of one family of four, daring us to look away while knowing we can’t.
Best known for his riveting 2010 literary thriller “Skippy Dies,” Murray is particularly skilled at creating characters impossible not to root for. In “The Bee Sting” we see the Barnes family through the eyes of each family member. Starting with teenage daughter Cass, for example, we see her internal struggles, amusements, desires, and revelations but also and importantly her assessment and assumptions about her family members. Cass has closed herself off from her mother, Imelda, who she sees as unattainably beautiful and with whom she is competing for the love and attention of her best friend. She holds at arm’s length her financially struggling father, Dickie, who is rapidly becoming her biggest humiliation. She shuts out her pestering and irrelevant younger brother, PJ. As with Cass, we take turns looking through the eyes of Imelda, Dickie and PJ and in the process, we gradually realize that very little is exactly as the character believes, and that each is utterly in the dark about the others.
With not one but four unreliable narrators, “The Bee Sting” shows us the love, support, and connection these characters miss by attempting to shield each other from their truths.
Like the actual bee sting in the plot, by hiding our truths from those closest to us, we rob them of the ability to show us who they truly are as well. After spending more than 600 pages with Cass, PJ, Imelda and Dickie, our hearts break for what is left unsaid.
“The Bee Sting” by Paul Murray is available today at your public libraries.